Over the past several years, the number of visitors to Japan, and particularly the Kansai region, from Asian countries has steadily increased. The completion of the 300-meter-high Abeno Harukas, Japan's tallest commercial building, and the opening up of a Harry Potter section at Universal Studios Japan have served as magnets to draw more foreign visitors, and this, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (Sept 11) has had the effect of raising the occupancy rate of the city's hotels. As a result, not only are city hotels, but even budget and business hotels are finding themselves unable to meet demand.
"By the weekend, we hotel operators get to talking. 'Have you got any vacant rooms?' they ask," says a member of the Osaka Prefectural Association of Hotel Operators. "If the number of flights by those LLCs (low cost carriers) into Kansai International Airport increase any further -- meaning more visitors from South Korea and China -- the situation's going to become huge mess as far as accommodations are concerned."
Not to pass up a business opportunity, the magazine reports, moves are afoot by people in the hotel industry to tap into the latent potential of the city's love hotels. One of the ways to do this is to modify their exteriors, lobbies, and so on to make them resemble more conventional business hotels in appearance.
"Recently we've been getting inquiries from individual travelers and operators of budget tours," the owner of a love hotel is quoted as saying. "In addition to just seeking accommodations, it appears that in the travelers' own countries (China and South Korea), hotels of this type are not that common, so they're curious to spend a night or two, just so they can say they experienced a different culture. The demand by couples is pretty steady, I figure."
These developments have been observed by people in the real estate industry, who have begun to see turning over love hotel properties as a growth business.
"The word is out that hotels are selling at the rate of one or so every week," a source in the realty industry tells Shukan Jitsuwa. "It's like the days of the 'bubble economy' all over again. I've even heard there are operators making big money just by specializing in turning over love hotels."
Love hotel rooms are not the only commodity in short supply; the market for rental apartments also feeling the pinch.
"Plans are in the works for renting out more units for use as guest houses for foreigners," says a writer for a real estate industry trade publication. "Because it will take a change in the law controlling operation of hotels and ryokan, we've heard that people in the trade have begun to lobby LDP Diet members. I suppose this aspect of the business will heat up between now and the Tokyo Olympics."
Well, Shukan Jitsuwa concludes, if the influx of foreign tourists stimulates the economy, that certainly can't be a bad thing. But then it plays a wild card, stating that if overbearing market forces are allowed to get their way, it may lead to a deterioration in public order -- something nobody wants. To its credit, nowhere does the magazine suggest foreigners would be to blame for any problems that ensue.© Japan Today